October 22, 2015

Liz Johnson, Greenwood Gardens' Executive Director, captured this photo of a beautiful, fall-flowering crocus. It can be found in the east end of the Reflecting Pool Garden, near the Austrian pine. Head of Horticulture, Sonia Uyterhoeven reports, "We have both Crocus speciosus and cultivar 'Conqueror' growing in that area. The cultivar is an inch or so taller than the species." (Click on the photo to view a larger version)

Crocus speciosus 'Conqueror'  FB

Digiplexis: A curious name for a beautiful flower

Head of Horticulture, Sonia Uyterhoeven introduces us to this beautiful flower with a strange name: Digiplexis with Lion

When visiting the garden this year, you’ve no doubt noticed the gorgeous, intergeneric hybrid called  ×Digiplexis ILLUMINATION® ‘Flame’ that we planted in pots flanking the front door of the Main House. The curious name will make sense just as soon as I explain its heritage, and wipe away any thought of ’70s disco dancers you may be entertaining at the moment.
Intergeneric hybrids are crosses between closely related genera. A well-known example in the orchid world is ×Laeliocattleya, which is a cross between a Laelia and a Cattleya. In the case of ×Digiplexis, it is a cross between a foxglove (Digitalis) and Isoplexis, which is a shrub-like, short-lived perennial (zone 9 – 11) from the Canary Islands and Madeira.

Isoplexis typically grows up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It has foot-long upright flower spikes that are densely covered with tubular flowers, each a blend of vermillion, rust, and gold. Its common name, cresta de gallo, alludes to the fact that it is reminiscent of a cockscomb. The plant was originally thought to have been pollinated by sunbirds, having since been replaced by Canary Island Chiffchaffs and other warblers.

When the plants arrived from the nursery in late May, they had a single flower stalk.

Scientists have done research on this genus and found that while it is pollinated by birds, the pollination is infrequent. Isoplexis has an answer for this: the flowers stay open and ready for pollination for several months at a time. This tender perennial will be in bloom throughout the summer in your home garden (June to September or October).

Hybridize Isoplexis with foxgloves (×Digitalis) and you have a long-blooming annual that reaches about 3 feet tall. The long duration of the hybrid’s bloom isn’t due to low pollination frequency, as the hybrid is sterile and doesn’t waste its energy producing seeds.

The vermillion in the blooms is infused with violet from the marriage of the two genera, and the tubular flowers still resemble cockscombs or, if you have a good imagination, a laughing mouth. Combine Isoplexis with the hardier foxglove and you get a short-lived perennial that is hardy to zone 8. The foliage on the hybrid resembles that of the foxglove, and this showstopper is ideal for a container.

The plants keep on blooming--and now have several flower stalks on each plant.


Sonia Uyterhoeven, our Head of Horticulture introduces us to a fascinating plant growing in one of Longshadow's Munstead planters on the east terrace of the Main House:
Isn’t this lovely? It is Cuphea llavea, or the "bat-faced" cuphea. I have three different types of cuphea growing in the garden. It is a wonderful low maintenance annual/tender perennial that flowers all summer long and is a reliable grower. I am trying this one for the first time and love it. Look closely at the flower and you will see the bat face. The woodchuck sampled it and decided he didn’t like it, so that is good news.  'Bat-faced' cuphea in Longshadow's Munstead planter FB

Three interesting plants in flower this week, June 22

Opuntia humifusa Eastern Prickly Pear
Opuntia humifusa is known as the Eastern Prickly Pear -- yes, a cactus native to the northeast.
Rudebeckia maxima buds
Three buds have formed on this 'giant coneflower', Rudebeckia maxima. It isn't quite in flower yet, but very beautiful anyway.


Abutilon megapotamicum Chinese Lantern 2
'Chinese Lantern', Abutilon megapotamicum, grows in a Longshadow Munstead planter beneath the pergolas on the Main Lawn